By Lora Abernathy
It’s a weekend adventure that has The General Denver Hotel’s name written all over it.
And the Ohio Farm Bureau’s.
Guests tour Clinton County farms, witness cooking demonstrations, and enjoy a stay at the historic hotel — and they’re just getting warmed up.
The hotel and restaurant, in partnership with the OFB, hosts three Grow and Know events throughout the year. The events fulfill the OFB’s mission to forge “a partnership between farmers and consumers,” according to a local OFB leader, and they showcase Clinton County.
Showing the best that Clinton County has to offer is at the core of what The General Denver has always done, and these unique events are simply an extension of that, according to hotel owner Molly Dullea.
The OFB has been hosting Grow and Know events for seven or eight years, according to Steven Berk, organization director for the Clinton County Farm Bureau. Working with The General Denver to host them in Wilmington was a natural fit.
“The General Denver is a great partner, and they were already using so much stuff that is locally sourced,” Berk said.
A great deal of the local food served at the hotel comes from local farmer Jon Branstrator. Guests are usually given a tour of his farm during their stay. Branstrator said he enjoys talking about his farm to a new audience and getting to know the participants.
The feeling’s mutual.
“The guests just love talking to him,” said Lisa Kiley, the marketing director for the hotel. “He’s a wealth of knowledge and he’s got a great philosophy on his farm. … He’s innovative and cares for the product.”
“Don’t get your ag news by scrolling through your news feed on Facebook,” Berk said. “Come out to an event like this.”
The three events are a Winter Wine Weekend, held March 18-20, the Lamb Jam, held toward the end of June, and a Haunted Harvest Weekend, held Halloween weekend. The General Denver began hosting these events with the Lamb Jam in 2014. Organizers added the Wine and Harvest weekends in 2015, and will continue all three in 2016.
Kiley said they prefer to keep the events small, with approximately four to five couples.
During the June 2015 Lamb Jam, several of the farmers joined the eight guests at The General Denver for a cooking demonstration and dinner, followed by live entertainment in the main dining room of the restaurant.
On the menu was a kale and strawberry salad, chile-cumin lamb meatballs with tzatziki sauce, lamb chops with a local rhubarb and radish slaw, and a caramelized honey brulee — all made with local ingredients. Diners also had their choice of three local wines.
“The food was great,” Tom Snyder said.
“It was outstanding,” his wife, Pam Snyder, corrected.
Celebrating their anniversary and her birthday, the pair came from Chillicothe for the Lamb Jam.
Berk said events like Grow and Know give the agriculture community the ability to interact with consumers and tell their story.
“I just had no idea that there were all those produce growers in Clinton County,” Pam Snyder said.
Lora Abernathy is the editor of Salt magazine. Originally from West Virginia and a proud Marshall University alumna, she lives in Hillsboro, Ohio, with her husband, Gary, is mom to a Great Dane and yellow Lab, and trains and competes in triathlons. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @AbernathyLora.